Students Attends 2021 National Conference on Undergraduate Research
By Angel Zhong
On April 12th, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) commenced.
NCUR is the world’s largest undergraduate research symposium, hosting approximately four
thousand students annually. This year, the conference had its first virtual, remote iteration due to
the COVID-19 pandemic. Students from universities based all over the world, and engaged in a
myriad of disciplines gathered online to share their work, including students from the University
of the Pacific.
Carmen Huang, Psychology, ‘20, who graduated from Pacific last fall, unveiled two independent
research projects at NCUR this year: a poster presentation on a study she conducted for her
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) and an oral presentation on her honors
project. Huang considers her experiences with independent research an integral component of
her time at Pacific, as well as her career after graduation.
“With my independent research projects, I was able to utilize what I learned from those [research
methods] courses and analyze data for my projects,” she shared. “As for my personal growth, my
independent research projects reflect my current interests, such as race/ethnicity (SURF project)
and social classes (Honors project). Had it not been for these independent research projects, I
wouldn't have able to delve into these topics during my undergraduate career,” says Huang.
Moreover, Huang’s favorite aspect of attending NCUR was the ability to network with students
and researchers located across the globe.
Huang commented, “My favorite part of attending NCUR this year was my interactions with
other researchers, specifically during my oral presentation, I was placed in a room with one other
speaker and a moderator. Prior to presenting, we conversed and learned about one another, such
as our interests and future career plans. We even connected on LinkedIn!”
Brooke Han Tran, English, ‘23 presented her research on the shortcomings of perceived
meritocratic systems in higher education, with a focus on dispelling the model minority myth.
“I found that when studying data around Asian Americans, there tends to be exclusionary
behavior and an erasure of Asian Americans from different geographical regions,” she
elaborated. “In general, data on Asian Americans is scarce, and when any research is done, it is
rarely disaggregated to show disparities among different Asian American subgroups, such as
Southeast Asian Americans. The project I presented this year is basically a prerequisite for my
overarching research project that I plan to extend during my time at Pacific.”
Her advice to those contemplating pursuing and eventually presenting an independent research
project would be to challenge yourself and go for it:
“If you don’t put yourself out there and reach out to that professor or even submit your abstract,
you’ve already lost that opportunity. One of my intentions this school year was to be braver, and
I learned that you can be both terrified and brave… It also meant pushing aside my fears that I
wasn’t qualified enough to do research. I had to remind myself that undergrad is exactly the time
to learn these skills and that it was okay to let my faculty advisor know when I needed extra
support in navigating the process of research,” says Tran.
Dr. Lydia Fox, Associate Professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences and Director of
Undergraduate Research, expressed feelings of profound pride on behalf of the all the student
attendees this year:
“I interact with the students going to NCUR directly. Seeing them be so excited about presenting
their work and the excitement they get in that engagement, and communicating with the summer
fellows over the summer and seeing how, at the beginning, things are maybe moving slowly, and
they’re getting frustrated, then, at the end, they’re like ‘oh I got this done and that done,’ and just
seeing the pride they take at the end of the project and that they got all that accomplished—I love
Additionally, Dr. Fox offered a few words of encouragement to all Pacific students thinking of
submitting their research to NCUR at the moment.
“Do it—don't even think about not doing it,” she states. “Just find the opportunity and dive in
and learn. Then take pride in the presentation to tell others what it was that you did learn,
because research doesn't really have a meaning until you tell somebody else about it.”
All in all, in spite of the interpersonal limitations inherent in a virtual conference, NCUR was an
amazing and awe-inspiring experience for the Pacificans who attended, and will hopefully
continue to be in the future.